Universal Ethics > Thought of the Month > August 2020

Appreciate the advantages of now.

For happiness, you need to devote some thought to the future, some thought to the past, but most of all you need to give attention to the present.

The future will be better if you plan for it, which is the fundamental premise of the Pathways Planning Method. Many parts of life require preparation, such as retirement (which requires prior savings), a career (which requires prior education), etc. So, it makes sense to be prepared. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that Happiness is a journey, not a destination. If happiness is always postponed because you are working on getting it later, that can be an unending cycle.

The past deserves some attention too. Learning from the past can give you a happier today, and there can be some joy from fond memories. That is why people keep photos or videos of special times, to help bring those memories back. But a photo or memory of an event is not quite the same as living it. That only happens in the present.

When thinking of today, keep in mind that every season and stage of life has its own advantages and disadvantages. There may be some times that are inevitably miserable, and one can get through them with hope for something better later. But most of the time, today can be enjoyed if we focus or mind on the benefits it has to offer.

As I am writing this, it is the middle of summer, and I just finished a walk around the neighborhood, to appreciate the beautiful trees, lawns, and gardens, and pleasant weather. But I also know that fall and winter will be coming. I could tell myself "enjoy summer now while I can." It's true it makes sense to enjoy it now, but if my thoughts are on the loss of what I am enjoying, I am not really enjoying the present as much as I could.

Likewise when winter comes, I could be moping and wishing for summer to come back. Alternately I could enjoy the benefits that winter has to offer: the joy of skating or skiing or making a snowman, no annoying mosquitoes or other bugs around, and no work needed for cutting grass or trimming trees.

Every part of life is special, and one can either enjoy what it has to offer or wish for something else. When a person is single, they have the advantage of freedom, but may wish for companionship. When a couple marry and have children, they have companionship, but also responsibilities. Parents of young children may wish for the day when he (or she) didn't have to change diapers, or when it wouldn't take half an hour to get the kids in to the car to go anywhere--to get them ready and strap them into their car seats. Later the kids do get older, now they can at last do things for themselves and be helpful, but perhaps they aren't so cute and affectionate and enthusiastic.

If a person spends their whole life thinking about "won't it be wonderful when...", or "wasn't it nice when...", they are missing out on the advantages of now. Enjoy freedom when you're single, and take time for recreation that you might not have time for later. Enjoy companionships when you're married. Enjoy your children's cuteness and affection when they are little, and appreciate their abilities and growing independence as they get older.

Knowing that no one life can last forever without loss, a person could take one of two attitudes. At a young age, as soon as they realize that fact, they could estimate their lifespan and begin counting down the days of their expected life. Along the way they can estimate when their parents and other loved ones will be gone and keep count-downs for them too. That's one attitude, and it's a recipe for a life of unhappiness.

The other attitude is to focus most of your attention on the present. Learn from the past and be prepared for the future, but enjoy the benefits you have right now. Be mindful of what is around you, and live life fully each moment.

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